Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Reboot: Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)

Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetLet's roll back a minute and reflect on what 1965 meant to the world. The Cold War was in full bloom, with bickering and posturing occurring on both sides of the iron curtain. Johnson was in the White House, and his pedal was to the metal with the Soviets in the race to reach the moon. Schlock film productions were criss-crossing the nation, as Americans sought release from the tensions of the world with monsters, maidens, and sci-fi adventure. So logically, what better way to move forward than to strip a Russian-made movie of it's dialogue, splice in Basil Rathbone, and call it a day? Not once, but twice! Well, two and a half times...

Our Future Is In Their Hands!

Screen captureRoger Corman purchased the rights to the 1962 Russian film, Planeta Burg, and set forth to create not one, but two separate films. In a sense, Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) and it's sister film, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, (1968) are the epitome of writing a script around stock footage. Corman simply had US director Curtis Harrington splice in original film scenes with Rathbone and Faith Domergue, better known for her leading role in This Island Earth. In some serious post-production editing, the original Russian dialogue was dubbed, then the film was packaged up and sent to unsuspecting theaters across the country. Three years later, he would remove the 1965 edits and stuff the original again with Americanized images - psychic blondes bathing on a beach.

 The Inside Scoop

Curtis Harrington as John Sebastian
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet was 'filmed' at the same time as the more legitimate Harrington creation, Queen of Blood. Though he felt Queen was good enough to add his real name to the credits, he again used footage from Planeta to flesh out the scenes. Production costs for both films are rumored to be less than $35k. As an aside, Harrington not only dubbed over the dialogue in Voyage, he also wiped clean the original actors' credits and replaced them with bogus pseudonyms.

Worth Watching For...

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Faith Domergue was a standard in the sci fi and horror circuit of Hollywood by the time Corman was making his rounds and revolutionizing the genre. Her 1955 portrayal of Dr. Ruth Adams in the iconic film, This Island Earth, marked a shift in how leading women were written into scripts. She was not the damsel in distress so much as the originator of information. In Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, Harrington re-visits this role for Domergue by installing her as the voice of science - a controller in orbit trying to keep things from completely going to hell.

This film was purchased by Corman for one very good reason- it is a great visual art piece. Original director Pavel Klushantsev used sturdy special effects to bring his story to life, and the technology, though tame by today's standards, were revolutionary. One very cool robot, original costume designs, and a flying car that demonstrates realistic (sort of) physics make this worth watching. The dialogue does fall flat, as the extended scenes needed to be filled with mindless prattle. This issue would be resolved, however, in the 1968 psychic beach-bunny re-re-release.
Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetNotable Quotable

Cmdr Lockhart: ...I'll be right behind you.
Ferneau: That'll be handy if I slip.

Critical Stats

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
Voyage to the Prehistoric PlanetVoyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965) was produced by Roger Corman Productions, re-worked from the original Russian production Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms), from the Leningrad Studio of Popular Science Films. Original filming locations unknown, with American scenes cut in for stateside consumption. Directed by Pavel Klushansev, with US scenes directed by Curtis Harrington (film credits read John Sebastian, in homage to Bach). Starring Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue, Vladimir Yemelyanov, Georgi Zhzhyonov, and Gennadi Vernov. US release August, 1965. Color. Run Time 74 Minutes.

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